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A large number of substances are regulated by European legislation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also suggests guideline values for a series of pollutants.

These values are not legally binding. The sole purpose of the WHO guidelines is to protect human health, so no consideration is given to economic or technical feasibility. From a purely health care perspective, Flanders satisfied the WHO guidelines for carbon monoxide, mercury, lead, manganese and a number of volatile organic components. Sulphur oxide is one pollutant that amply satisfied the EU limit. Nevertheless, the current SO2 concentrations exceeded the WHO guideline at three-quarters of the measuring sites. If we take health as the sole parameter, then the ozone, PM10 en PM2.5 concentrations were too high everywhere. The WHO guidelines for nitrogen dioxides and cadmium were met at many of the measuring sites. The models indicate, however, that the nitrogen dioxide concentration is too high at heavy traffic locations.

Average on the basis of
SO2 red tick icon (23/30)
NO2 red tick icon (6/59) red tick icon (3/59)
PM10 red tick icon (37/37) red tick icon (34/37)
PM2,5 red tick icon (39/39) red tick icon (39/39)
CO Green tick icon
O3 red tick icon (19/19)
Pb Green tick icon
Cd red tick icon (2/12)
Hg Green tick icon
Mn Green tick icon

Red: number of measurement stations exceeding the WHO guideline value relative to total number of stations

In addition, the WHO expresses the harmful nature of benzo(a)pyrene, arsenic, nickel and benzene in terms of the number of extra cancer cases in the event of lifelong exposure to a specific concentration. From this perspective, especially the concentrations of arsenic must be reduced in a region with a non-ferrous company and of benzo(a)pyrene in general.

In summary, it can be said that, from a health perspective, further actions are needed to reduce the concentrations of a number of pollutants, even for substances that fully comply with the EU standards.

VMM contributes to a better air quality in Flanders. We continuously monitor the air quality by measuring the presence of harmful substances in the ambient air.

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